"Before you can dance," Luigi said in the April 1962 issue of Dance Magazine, "you must know how to love, how to give."

Courtesy DM Archives

#TBT: Luigi Redefined Jazz Technique—But His Career Almost Never Happened

The technique developed by the legendary Luigi has become inextricable from jazz dance. But it was born from a career that almost never was: In 1946, at 21, the dancer was left comatose and partially paralyzed in the wake of a car accident, two months to the day after his discharge from the U.S. Navy. It was doubtful he would walk again, but three years later he danced in his first Hollywood film—and began developing and adapting the exercises that would form the basis of his technique.

Luigi (who was born Eugene Louis Faccuito but went by the nickname given to him by Gene Kelly while filming On the Town) spent a lifetime imparting his knowledge. "I want to know who you are as a human being," he told us in the April 1991 issue of Dance Magazine. "I don't sit at home and plan an artificial feeling for the class. I use the life around me at the moment—the students in the class—and whatever they present to me. What you are at the moment is important to me. There is enough life experience in me to be able to call upon what is needed."

He received a Dance Magazine Award in 2014 and passed away the following April, just a few weeks after his 95th birthday.

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Charlene Gehm MacDougal as Lead Nursemaid in Petrushka. Photo by Herbert Migdoll, courtesy the MacDougal family.

In Memoriam: Joffrey Dancer Charlene Gehm MacDougal, 69

Former lead dancer with The Joffrey Ballet, Charlene Gehm MacDougal died of ovarian cancer on January 10 at her home in New York City, age 69.

Gehm illuminated the inner life of each of the varied characters in her extensive repertoire. Whether she was the gracious hostess in George Balanchine's Cotillon, the riveting Lady Capulet in John Cranko's Romeo and Juliet, or in the tumult of William Forsythe's Love Songs, she drew the viewer's eye and heart to the essence of the role.

As Forsythe puts it: "Charlene was certainly one of the most elegant dancers I have had the privilege to work with. Her striking countenance flowed into her work and, joined with her wicked sense of humor and intelligence, created thoughtful, mesmerizing and memorable art."

February 2021